Williams and NCAA Out of Lawsuit

Williams and NCAA Out of Lawsuit

It's pretty simple now. What started out as a $60 million lawsuit with two plaintiffs and numerous defendants, a suit that charged defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence, wantonness and civil conspiracy is now down to Ronnie Cottrell vs. Tom Culpepper on claims of defamation.

Judge Steve Wilson reversed a previous decision that said Ivy Williams is not a public figure, and tossed out Williams' remaining claims as a result of the ruling that made him a public figure.

"Shocked? I'm hurt. I wasn't treated fair. This has taken four years out of my life," an angry Williams said after the trial recessed Wednesday. "I have been tainted. My reputation has been damaged and ruined."

Mark Jones, who was the NCAA's director of enforcement at the time of Alabama's case and has been in the courtroom throughout the trial, declined comment because upon the NCAA's dismissal of the case he was subpoenaed as a third-party witness by the plaintiffs.

"I'm very pleased about the result," Jim Jenkins, an attorney who represented the NCAA said. "The judge's ruling vindicates the NCAA."

Jenkins excoriated the plaintiffs for trying the case in the media and said that shining the light of day on the trial issues favored his client.

"The NCAA is made up of colleges and universities throughout this country," Jenkins said, and if they want to change the rules they can. "It's a very democratic process."

Attorney Courtney Crowder, another lawyer for the NCAA, said "You've got to meet certain legal hurdles to get to a jury and they failed."

The plaintiffs' and their lawyers, Delaine Mountain and Tommy Gallion, said they were committed to an appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court.

"(The ruling) is very disappointing," Gallion said. "The NCAA has escaped. The jury has heard this evidence and they should be able to make the decision."

"I feel like that mythical character Prometheus, when they chained him to a rock and eagles pecked him to death."

The plaintiffs argued in court that it would be patently unfair to change the status of Ivy Williams to a public figure after the plaintiffs had already wrapped up their case.

"It never dawned on us that this ruling would change after we started the case," Mountain said.

"I'm not going away," Williams said.

The judge also ruled that Williams had no case remaining against Culpepper. Wilson said that testimony by Terry Harrington, that Culpepper said Williams was involved funneling money to Lynn Lang and Albert Means, did not rise to the level needed to prove defamation against a public figure.

Culpepper's attorneys also argued that Cottrell's claims should be dismissed. The judge requested specific defamatory statements, their time and the circumstances surrounding them be presented one-by-one for them to be ruled on.

The judge ruled so far that one statement testified to, that Culpepper told Harrington Cottrell had stolen from Shaun Alexander's charitable foundation, can go to the jury for consideration. The other statements are expected to be taken up Wednesday.

Culpepper attorney John Scott introduced the video trial deposition of Gene Marsh as his first witness. Former Alabama player Jeremy Walker, who is a law clerk at Gallion's firm, read portions of Marsh's trial deposition in lieu of using the video deposition.

In the video, Marsh said that Culpepper "was never a major part of our investigation" from the University of Alabama's perspective.

He testified that NCAA investigator Rich Johanningmeier described Culpepper as "a footnote" in the NCAA's case.

Marsh testified that Culpepper was extremely fearful when they met at his house with Johanningmeier, Marie Robbins and Culpepper's wife, and that he apologized "repeatedly to the point where it got silly, that he did not come to me and Marie."

Marsh said he disagreed with the penalties given by the NCAA, and said he felt like Alabama was disadvantaged by not getting notice of the Albert Means allegations "on the front end."

"We got tough love on the front end and we got tough love on the back end," Marsh testified.

Marsh testified that former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer called him and gave an emotional apology for not alerting Marsh and Robbins of the Means allegations.

In the testimony Marsh also said that he did not agree with Johanningmeier that nothing could have been done if Alabama had been notified.

Marsh said Means "would have never put a sock or a shoe on" if they had been aware of possible violations.

Testimony for the day ended with Doug Moore on the stand. Moore was a former employer of Culpepper. He testified that Culpepper was an honest person and a good worker. He said Culpepper told him that Young had threatened him, and he told Culpepper to get away from the situation.

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